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Accessing creativity of the unconscious mind, in the comfort of your own home


During sleep onset, a window of opportunity arises in the form of hypnagogia, a semi-lucid sleep state where we all begin dreaming before we fall fully unconscious. Hypnagogia is characterized by phenomenological unpredictability, distorted perception of space and time and spontaneous, fluid idea association. Edison, Tesla, Poe, and Dalí each accessed this state by napping with a steel ball in hand to capture creative ideas generated in hypnagogic micro-dreams when it dropped to the floor below.

Originally developed by Adam Horowitz and the Fluid Interfaces group in the MIT Media Lab. Dormio is a system comprised of a comfortable hand-worn device, replacing those steel balls with sensors of ECG, EDA and muscle tension. 

As part of my collaboration with Adam and Fluid Interfaces, we created a user-friendly smartphone app, which communicates directly to a cloud server. The server performs Machine Learning analysis to accurately predict sleep onsets, using Unsupervised Anomaly Detection.


Using this setup, sleep enthusiasts (aren't we all?) can explore their dreams and creativity in the safe haven of their own beds. The app is simple to use by first-time users and researchers alike, including a Dreambook log where one can explore multiple dreams around the same theme. 

The project is all open-source and can be found here.

Sleep sessions using Dormio. The red lines are sleep onsets as recognized by a human sleep researcher in the same room. The stars are the AI predictions for onsets.

“Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious.”
Sigmund Freud

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